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24,000 Clean Energy Jobs Added in October, Leaving 454,000 Unemployed After Months of Federal Inaction

Alex Hobson's picture
Vice President of Communications American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)

Alex Hobson is currently the Vice President of Communications at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). Previously, Alex served as the Senior Communications Manager for the Solar...

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The clean energy industry added fewer than 24,000 jobs in October, leaving more than 454,000 (13% of the sector’s workforce) unemployed as the nation enters the holiday season. For the fourth straight month, clean energy jobs grew by less than 1%, according to the latest analysis of federal unemployment filings prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by BW Research Partnership.
 
According to the monthly report, three out of every four clean energy workers who lost their jobs at the beginning of the crisis remain out of work. At the current rate of recovery, it would take more than 18 months for the sector to reach pre-COVID employment levels, and until 2023 to meet the sector’s projected 2020 job growth as calculated before the pandemic hit. The 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) employer survey had originally projected that more than 175,000 clean energy jobs would be added this year.
 
In 2018 and 2019, clean energy created about 190,000 new jobs nationwide. Before COVID-19, nearly 3.4 million Americans across all 50 states and the District of Columbia worked in clean energy occupations, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization, clean vehicles and fuels. That’s more people than work in real estate, banking or agriculture in the U.S., and three times the number of Americans that worked in fossil fuels, according to E2’s Clean Jobs America report.
 
Alarming employment trends across the economy continued in October. Long-term and permanent unemployment rates rose sharply, and now account for one-third of all unemployed workers. In addition, weekly unemployment claims continue to hit historic highs. With COVID-19 cases spiking around the country as the nation enters the winter months, when hiring tends to slow, more layoffs could be imminent without support from Congress.
 
Sandra Purohit, Advocacy Director at E2, said:
“Congress returns from elections as clean energy job growth continues to stall and permanent job losses increase. With stimulus discussions on the table again, Congress can turn this around by passing clean energy tax extenders and making funds available directly to clean energy businesses to help with job growth immediately.”
 
Pat Stanton, Policy Director for E4TheFuture, said:
“Out of all clean energy workers, energy efficiency professionals continue to suffer the most job losses. This segment remains down by 321,875 compared with January 2020 numbers. If this had been a normal year, the efficiency sector would have added about 34,500 jobs since March.”
 
Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said:
”The pace of recovery of renewable energy jobs lost due to COVID-19 is far too slow, with October proving to be yet another month where we gained back less than 1% of the renewable workers who lost their jobs in the pandemic. As we enter the traditionally slow winter season, our ask to Congress is an urgent one: We need temporary refundability for renewable tax credits so that projects can be completed in spite of a COVID-constrained tax equity market, and a delay in the scheduled phasedown of existing credits in recognition of the adverse nationwide impact the pandemic has had on the renewable sector this year.”
 
Mitchell Schirch, Research Analyst at BW Research Partnership, said:
“Hundreds of thousands of clean energy workers continue to face economic turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we enter the winter months, there’s no sign of relief. Congress needs to deliver a clean jobs program that provides high quality jobs to the working class while achieving the decarbonization goals necessary for a future on our planet.”

Monthly Clean Energy Job Losses by Sector

Sector

March

April

May

June

July

August

Sept.

Oct.

Total

Energy Efficiency

 -103,298

 -309,584

 -18,880

 +71,786

 +6,836

 +8,116

 +8,354

 +16,806

 -319,864

Renewables

 -23,739

 -71,705

 -4,272

 +17,287

 +1,918

 +2,571

 +2,273

 +3,965

 -71,704

Clean Vehicles

 -11,399

 -35,070

 -2,059

 +10,335

 +896

 +2,182

 +965

 +1,615

 -32,536

Grid & Storage

 -6,517

 -19,666

 -1,166

 +4,561

 +428

 +482

 +510

 +1,042

 -20,326

Clean Fuels

 -2,186

 -10,390

 -657

 +2,351

 +296

 +205

 +378

 +409

 -9,594

INDUSTRY TOTAL

 -147,139

 -446,416

 -27,035

 +106,320

 +10,373

 +13,556

 +12,479

 +23,838

 -454,024


State Clean Energy Unemployment by Total Losses:

State

Total Losses

Percent of Clean Energy Workforce

California

76,638

13.9%

Georgia

26,540

30.7%

Florida

24,000

14.3%

Michigan

22,671

17.0%

Texas

20,765

8.4%

North Carolina

18,340

16.0%

Pennsylvania

17,340

17.9%

Washington

17,124

19.2%

Ohio

14,774

12.7%

New York

14,329

8.1%

For expanded state and county findings, download the full report here.

State and Sector Impacts
While no clean energy sector grew by more than 0.8% in October, energy efficiency had the highest job growth, adding 16,800 jobs. It was followed by renewable energy (4,000) and clean vehicles (1,600).
 
More than 40 states still suffer double-digit unemployment in clean energy, with five states seeing unemployment of 20% or more. Georgia continues to have the highest rate, with over 30% of its clean energy workforce still unemployed, followed by Kentucky at 28%. In October, the sector’s highest growth rate was experienced in Hawaii (1.5%) and North Carolina (1.3%), while California again saw the largest total increase in jobs with 5,200 positions added (1.1%). Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Texas also added more than 1,000 jobs, while 23 states and the District of Columbia added fewer than 200 jobs each. Nationwide, 44 states saw job growth under 1% in October.
 
The data analyzed for this report did not include workers who had their work hours slashed and are now significantly underemployed.

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